Jun 24, 2009

Chunsengyo-ssi's Report on Jeon Yongbok Sonsen-nim's Lecture in Kyoto

Originally posted on "People Who Love BYJ"

Written by chunsengyo-ssi
translated by flowerbossa

Yorobun, annyeonghaseyo~!

Thanks to Pinky Ring-san’s efforts, we were given the pleasure of attending the lecture of the world renowned urushi artist Jeon Yongbok sonsen-nim, and almost 200 people from all over Japan gathered in Kyoto for this event. Some participants may have felt that there was not enough info on BYJ, but after all, the theme of this lecture was sonsen-nim and his art~! Most of what he talked about is of course written in his book, but having the experience of giving more than 400 lectures in the past, he was a wonderful speaker with a sense of humor.

He was successful in grabbing our hearts from the very beginning…

He said that although he has given over 400 lectures in the past, this was the first time that nearly the entire audience was made up of ladies (there was one gentleman who had participated with his wife, but that was all^^). He then noticed a lady sitting in the center of the first row and introduced her to the crowd.

“How old do you think this lady is everyone?”

An attractive and smart looking woman wearing pants and a peaked cap stood up, and we were told that she was 82 years old (I’m sorry if I’m mistaken). Apparently, sonsen-nim had a brief conversation with her in the lobby before the event, and remembered her face. He must have found this woman who seemed lively regardless of her age very attractive as a person. Sonsen-nim is a great lover of people!

Having captured our hearts, the story begins…Normally, sonsen-nim wears a suit for his lectures, but by pinky ring-san’s request, he wore his work wear to show his usual attire in his atelier.


“Of course I own suits, you know (laughs). This work wear is stained with lacquer that won’t come off even if I wash it, but BYJ wanted this. But I said to him, “you can’t have it! It’s going to be passed on to my son Hyun min!” (Omo, he’s talking about YJ~but our expectations were turned down immediately, because that was all we got at this point^^) Then he gave the story of his life up until the time he became involved in the Gajoen project, and also talked about his deep feelings for his parents, all in fluent Japanese (occasionally mixed with the local dialect of Iwate).

Although I was waiting with excitement for stories on BYJ, (and I’m sure many in the audience shared my feelings^^):

BYJ is a serious and most elegant man.

BYJ treasures his kajok (family).

Concerning the fans’ opinion on the net wishing him to go back to acting rather than spend time on lacquer, sonsen-nim defended him by saying, “shouldn’t he be allowed to have a hobby too?”

As an elder, Sonsen-nim hopes to support BYJ who is trying to become a bridge between Japan and Korea.

That was about all that he talked about on YJ, during the lecture and in the Q&A session.

Needless to say, I did wish he gave a little bit more on him, but I was so impressed by sonsen-nim’s passionate words on the traditional culture of Japan and lacquer art that the 2 hours passed away too quickly.

I participated in this event as a staff, so I would like to give a few behind the scene episodes.

Actually, sonsen-nim was very concerned about whether the participants were really satisfied with the event. You can imagine why! Everyone in the audience was a BYJ fan! He knows very well that we were expecting stories on YJ…

But almost all the comments I heard were very favorable, and that people felt that it was a wonderful lecture. And, the audience was a very mature group of people. Even in the Q&A session, people were considerate and never asked about YJ straightforwardly – they only inquired politely after a comment to sonsen-nim. (Even when we were DYING to hear all about him^^)

SO, what I would like to say to you, Bae Yong Joon is~!

You can be proud of us ~ we as your kajok ^^

Which brings to mind something he said to the kajok, at the family meeting in either Hong Kong or Taiwan in 2005…

In Hangul it went something like this:

저는 당신들이 자랑스러워요
I am proud of all of you.

So.When I got to the hall on the day of the event, the staffs that had gathered from other parts of Japan and spent the night in Kyoto were already starting to get ready for the event. And at the venue, sonsen-nim himself was setting up his work! I never dreamed that I would be able to see sonsen-nim’s work before going to Iwate or Gajoen, so I was very happy.

Two ladies and a young man were also helping him out. I had thought at first that they were staff of the Iwayama Art Museum, but found out that they were all his real family. It was his wife, his second daughter and Hyun Min-ssi, sonsen-nim’s son that had his photo taken with BYJ and became a famous figure among us fans.

Then, after we completed the preparations, and sonsen-nim was talking with us staff about his work etc., he suddenly started calling out, “Pinky ring-san, where are you Pinky Ring-san?”When Pinky Ring-san came hurriedly, sonsen-nim said “Pinky Ring-san, it would be good to have a spotlight here. If you don’t have one we can go buy it.”

Sonsen-nim wanted a spotlight to light up his work. But we had not prepared it that day. Pinky Ring-san’s eyes popped out! Having heard this standing near them, we panicked too. What? What time is it? A little past eleven. We need to make time for lunch… What are we going to do?@@@@

But you can leave it to Pinky Ring-san who had apparently gotten used to sonsen-nim’s last minute requests. She easily agreed, “alright sonsen-nim, let’s go”. What surprised us even more – you would think that only Pinky Ring-san and sonsen-nim would go out for this, right?

Wrong, not our sonsen-nim, #1!

He took his wife and two children with him.I heard from Pinky Ring-san later on that sonsen-nim was worried that if his family were left behind, they would get in the way of the staff who were trying to get ready for the event.How considerate he is! It is amazing that he can act with such compassion for others.

So, they got the spotlight and it was set in place, but at this stage, we were completely behind schedule (laughs)We staff were actually planning to have lunch with sonsen-nim and his family. But since it was nearly time to open up the hall, the staff had lunch first, and sonsen-nim and the people who were involved in setting up the spotlight had to have lunch in a hurry after they completed the preparations.

But somehow we were able to get things ready in time for the reception and we were sighing with relief thinking all we had to do now was to wait for the guests to enter…
Then again, something occurred that could have caused confusion!Normally, you would think the speaker would wait in his dressing room until he is called on stage, right?

Wrong, not our sonsen-nim #2!

Sonsen-nim came out from his dressing room many times to the lobby, and chatted with the participants, shook hands with them etc… because he has this special aura, all the staff except Pink Ring-san couldn’t ask him to go back to his room, and we were just standing around wringing our hands. But in the end either sonsen-nim finally noticed the confusion he was causing or Pinky Ring-san pulled him back to the dressing room, I had no way of knowing because I was starting receive the guests.

Even though he is a great artist acknowledged around the world, he does not put on airs of a difficult artist, rather, he treated us like old time acquaintances. Seeing him like this, what came to mind was an old haiku,

The fruit that bear most, hang lowest.

Jeon Yongbok sonsen-nim was indeed such a master.

And I also realized that his family – his wife and 3 children – were there to support him. I was very impressed by the fact that his family is very important for sonsen-nim and he loves them very much, and they in turn support him firmly but in a discreet way.

In his book and also in his lecture, he told us that he was proud of himself for never resenting his parents when he could easily have done so. His unchanging feelings of respect towards them have been passed on to his own family, and I felt that he has one warm and wonderful family.

(from his book "Soul")

I have nothing but respect for sonsen-nim’s greatness as a human being and kindness for making the effort to accept everything us kajok hope for as much as possible (BYJ to begin with!), I hope he would not try so hard that it would get in the way of his own work ^^

Sonsen-nim, kamsa turmnida!

Lastly, I would like to thank Pinky Ring-san for all her effort in planning and making this event possible.
P.S. Sonsen-nim showed great interest in the efforts of our circle “People Who Love BYJ” which has taken on the activities of B.S.J in supporting the LSH Asia Scholarship. Sonsen-nim has promised the staff that he personally will participate in this project.
(incidentally, both Lee Soo Hyun and sonsen-nim are from the same town, Busan - flowerbossa)

(chunsengyo-ssi has created some great haiku related to this event too!)


Anonymous said...

I guess I was distracted and placed my comment on the article under "Insu".
so here it is again:

Very interesting article. Thank you

Where can I read the haiku of chunsengyo-ssi?

I love Haiku poems.
"The fruit that bear most, hang lowest" is a thought fo the soul.

By the way; beautiful drawing as always.

flowerbossa said...

Dear Ida,

Thank you for reposting your comment here. Actually I can see your new comments where ever you post them (you can even leave a message on my very first post!) but it is nice of you to leave it at the relevent section.

I'm glad chunsengyo's report interested you.

I made a mistake in saying she wrote "haikus" - they were actually "tankas" ( thirty-one syllabled verse poems, consisting of 5,7,5,7 and 7 syllables). It literally translates as "short poems" and unlike haiku, you don't have to include a word that symbolizes a certain season. Needless to say, poems are more difficult to translate than prose, so I haven't translated any ofher poems yet. Maybe I will try someday!

If you make haikus yourself, please share them with us!
It would be interesting to read the poems you make from Sweden^^


Anonymous said...

Dear Flowerbossa

I think it might be difficult to translate haiku written in Swedish to English because the words would not be the same and so the haiku system of syllables will be lost.
I have tried Tanka also but it was a long time ago.


gosijo said...

My dear flowerbossa,

Sorry to be late in writing about my appreciation for your most recent posts, especially Saita4's re-interpretation of Kim Insu's version (ha ha!), Pallet's drawing of June 9th (capturing his sadness so poignantly) and your translation of chunsengyo-ssi's report on Jeon Yongbok Sonsen-nim's Lecture in Kyoto.

On the topic of haikus and tankas, am I right in thinking haikus have 5-7-5 syllables? I didn't know about including a word that symbolizes a season. One learns something everyday, and sometimes in blog comments of all places!

flowerbossa said...

Hello Gosijo,

Good to hear from you!

Yes, you are right about haiku- it is written in 5-7-5. I remember haiku was taught in elementary school when I was in the U.S.- it was a writing assiginment!

My mother-in-law is in a haiku circle, but she claims she feels pressured when she has to submit them for competition. I think it is very difficult to come up with something original with so little syllables!


flowerbossa said...

Hello again Ida,

Wow, you must be a very creative person to be writing so many different types of poetry.

I have to confess I do not feel the urge to write any. It just doesn't come to me. I really admire you! I wish I could understand Swedish to read your poems^^